Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats

THE DARK AGES                        105

inflections. I am full of indignation at the thought of britj^iner
the words of the heavenly oracle into subjection to die"*«Ie&~
of Donatus." It is in the same spirit that he deals with what
was evidently an attempt to institute a school of higher learning
under episcopal auspices. "We are almost ashamed to refer
to the fact that a report has come to us that your brotherhood
is teaching grammar to certain people/* he writes to Desiderius,
Bishop of Vienne. "This grieves us all the more because it
makes a deplorable change in our opinion of you. The same
mouth cannot sing the praise of Christ and the praise of Jupiter.
Just consider what a discraceful thing it is for a bishop to speak
of what would be unseemly even for a pious layman. If it should
be clearly proved hereafter that the report we have heard is
false and that you are not devoting yourself to the vanities of
worldly learning, we shall render thanks to God for keeping your
heart from defilement by the blasphemous praises of infamous
men."* Those who hold that the study of the ancient literatures
found immediate refuge in the Church at the break-up of the
municipal schools have tried to read this letter as meaning that
Gregory condemned Desiderius, not because he taught secular
literature, but because he did so at the expense of the sacred
literature. The letter, however, will not bear this interpretation.
The obvious implication of it is that Gregory regarded the pagan
classics as contrary to the very spirit of Christianity. If this view
is sound, we have to think of the ignorance and prejudice prevail-
ing in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries as shared by the Church
and especially by the monasteries; and so far as the latter are
concerned the responsibility to a considerable extent must be
laid on Gregory, whose great influence did much to impose the
Benedictine Rule in its original narrow form on the monasteries
of Western Europe.

This is borne out by the fact that with one exception there
is no certain evidence of any considerable degree of scholarship,
outside the sphere of religion, in any of the lands under the
papal jurisdiction till near the end of the Eighth Century. The
one exception was Spain, where intellectual life was kept vigorous
by the Arian controversy. The orthodox side at its best was
represented there by Isidore (570-636), Bishop of Seville, the most
learned man of his age. Isidore did not differ greatly from

Epistles, ad, 54.